Teens' sexual relationships

  • Updated: December 28, 2013 - 2:00 PM

Teens’ sexual relationships

There are some promising as well as problematic trends in our teens’ sexual relationships, according to recent research published by Child Trends.

Dating is common during adolescence, with 47 percent of eighth-graders, 62 percent of 10th-graders and 66 percent of 12th-graders reporting having been on a date. Here’s some good news about these relationships.

Since the 1990s, the percentage of teens having sexual intercourse has decreased from about 54 percent to 47 percent. Despite all the concerns about the impact of media on our kids’ sexual development, more adolescents are choosing to delay sexual relations.

This is good news for kids, and not just based on moral grounds. Kids who delay having sex are more likely to use effective birth control, less likely to get pregnant, and more likely to report that the sexual experience was wanted rather than coerced. The dating patterns established in adolescence tend to resonate throughout our lifetimes, so parents need to try to gently influence these interactions.

Sexual intercourse during adolescence typically occurs within the context of a romantic relationship. For 84 percent of teen girls and 72 percent of teen boys, their first sexual experience was with someone with whom they were in a continuing and serious relationship.

The news is not all encouraging. Here are the two most disturbing trends in this report.

Ten percent of our teens report physical violence on dates. This affects both boys and girls. Teen victims may continue in these pathological relationships for a variety of reasons. These kids are at higher risk for suicide, have lower self-esteem, exhibit eating disorders and generally have a lower overall emotional well-being.

Too many kids are still engaging in unsafe sexual practices. Forty percent of high school kids reported not using a condom the last time they had sex and only 23 percent reported using effective birth control such as pills, an implant or an IUD. The consequences are that 40 percent of females between 14 and 19 years of age have a sexually transmitted disease.

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